Odds are good I’ll never win a billion-dollar lotto. But, through weddings and births, divorce and death, I’ve been beyond lucky to have a friend. Like Cher, Temujin or a 1950s TV detective, he’s known mainly by the one name — Becker.
Becker recently inquired. Did I still have photos taken 40 years ago at this garish Halloween party? I knew the one. We had different spouses then. Our lapels were garishly wider.
This All Saints Day, I dressed as a pimp. Becker’s wife, my wife and Becker dressed up as — hurhum — ladies who are affectionate by the hour and who wear trashy sexpot outfits normally displayed in today’s public middle schools. Mind you. Becker is a thick piece of cake. It took a day to prep — nails, makeup, hair. Becker didn’t need a wig because, to this day, he’s blessed with a natural mop that would put Neanderthal to shame. Add the Nebraska dress and Becker didn’t look so much like a naughty Ashley Judd but Ashley Judd as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade float.
I’m not one to look down upon other people’s lifestyles, unless, of course, they’re cloven-hooved devil-worshipping Democrats, members of the all-powerful movie-showing California Teachers Union or, hock ptooey, the Rubenesque nude mime singer management hired at last year’s Zoom Christmas office party. I’m not a guy who falls for inflatable women or those who charge by the “Oh baby.” No offense to Becker As A Harlot, but I can’t see renting the services of a sex industry laborer who looks like Aunt Bea from Mayberry.
As only Floyd the Barber could say: “Uuuhhhhoooooohhhhhhhhhhh, ANNNN-deeeeeeee…!!!”
I have to give my childhood friend points. The dress. The ortho high heels. Twelve pounds of I’m Ready For My Close-up Mr. DeMille rouge. Becker ended up looking like the byproduct if Janet Reno (D) and Elizabeth Warren (D) had a baby.
I dug deeper and deeper into the boxes that held thousands of photos of my life.
There he was. Year after year. That darn Becker, the bestest of friends.
So many photos of him, pictures and signed yearbooks going back to the 9th grade. Becker and I went to Hart, back when it was the only high school in Santa Clarita. I dug into my old high school yearbooks, 1964-68. The school colors were maroon and grey.
Memories flooded, of first kisses. And 43rd kisses. And 117th kisses and 4,764th. These being hepcat daddy heinous times, let the record correctly reflect: Kisses With The Other Gender — Girls. There were photos of dances. Proms. Pep rallies. Theater productions. Like yearbooks across America, there were the same, stone-faced boys scowling in team group photos. Page after page were girls wearing yard-tall comic beauty school drop-out beehives. Mug shots of nerds, brainiacs and future Vietnam warriors, some lucky, some not so. I remember shoving Pat Arman against a locker and frisking him for cigarettes, lunch money or a carburetor he wasn’t using.
That was Arman shoving me. I got back at my pal by welding shut the butterfly valve on my carburetor. Arman always wondered why he got such lousy gas mileage. Arman drove a Peugeot. Three wheeled. Unfitting for a hoodlum of his stature. I got pictures.
We had white football helmets because the old Hart stadium lighting was equivalent to one hand-held caveman torch. On the rare pass, luck would favor those with head gear that glowed in the dark. The same bunch of useless kissies — and I was one — posed sternly as student government leaders. I can’t recall. What, exactly, did we do our four years? A balanced budget? Nuclear disarmament? Free the slaves? Meaningless experience in becoming future do-nothing leaders?
High school was so dear, so special. It rescued me from a damaged childhood, helped me find the voice and identity of the man I’d later become. I remember teachers who made not just a difference, but walked me to the fork in the road and, with a smile, wished me luck and good adventures. Those people in the class annuals? Many are still my friends, some closer than family. We text, email and write, often daily. Not much new to report. Still. We still talk and laugh for hours.
I read a letter to the editor in last week’s Signal. Some dear kid, just months past learning cursive handwriting, penned an excellent observation. The 15-year-old wrote about navigating high school in 2021 during this dratted Chinese Flu and The Life Abnormal. In the 1960s, we had a quarter-mile strip marked off on Newhall Avenue when it ran through an onion field and held drag races. The sophomore of 2021 wrote of a high school experience lived from laptop and dining room table. We’d fill the old Hart gym (it was painted pink for a season), kick the stands until the termite-rich place nearly collapsed and be shamed by the pep squad for excess yahoo rural rowdiness. Which made us both rowdier and cheerleader lustful. My young letter-writing friend? Instead of zanily bouncing jumping jacks off-rhythm in gym like a hundred insane asylum Rockettes, his reality was Zoom. He missed soccer. High school was not on campus. It was an email, from behind a mask. Will he even have a yearbook, more than four pages long?
I hope this COVID nonsense ends soon, that this 15-year-old I’ll probably never meet gets to start filling cardboard boxes (or smartphone cloud storage?) with memories of rooter buses and girls on whom he’s held hopeless crushes, big games and special teachers.
Sixty years from now?
Perhaps the boy will sit by himself, with a big stupid grin, and marvel at the hair he had, the zero-body fat and goofy not-quite-all-there teen expression.
Perhaps he’ll stop at one photo and smile.
I hope he’s already found his Becker.
Of course, without the Aunt Bea dress, vulnerable eyes and XXXXXL pantyhose…
John Boston is a local writer, but not a pimp. It was just a costume.